Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's season-ending knee injury has some pundits pondering how the Boston Bruins will cope with his absence.
The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy believes GM Peter Chiarelli will look within his organization for help. There's plenty of promising young defensemen on their roster (Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski) and in their system (Zach Trotman, David Worsofsky) to turn to, though they lack Seidenberg's experience.
Should those youngsters fail to adequately fill Seidenberg's spot, Chiarelli could trade for a more seasoned blueliner. Conroy listed Buffalo's Henrik Tallinder, Winnipeg's Mark Stuart (a former Bruin), Ottawa's Chris Phillips and the New York Rangers' Dan Girardi as possible targets.
CBC's Glenn Healy also suggested the Bruins could have interest in Girardi while colleague Elliotte Friedman felt the Anaheim Ducks could come calling for the Rangers blueliner. ESPN.com's Craig Custance also believed the Ducks' blueline could benefit from the addition of “a playoff-tested veteran defenseman”. Of their young defensemen, only Cam Fowler has NHL playoff experience.
That need, however, could be addressed from within. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson wondered where veteran Sheldon Souray will fit on the Ducks defense when he returns from a wrist injury. Souray has 40 NHL playoff games under his belt, but that's considerably more than the combined total (13) of the Ducks young defenders. They also have veteran Francois Beauchemin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.
With the Bruins and Ducks atop their respective divisions and riding high in the overall standings there's no urgency for either club to add a veteran defenseman. They'll take their time assessing their bluelines before deciding if there's a genuine need to add experienced depth.
Girardi, slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July, will certainly attract interest if the Rangers decide to move him by the March 5 trade deadline. That decision will depend upon where they are in both the standings and his contract talks.
HABS-LEAFS SEE MAJOR PLAYERS IN NEWSPAPER RUMOR MILLS
The New York Post's Larry Brooks claimed the Montreal Canadiens were willing to trade winger Max Pacioretty because he wasn't coach Michel Therrien's “type of player.”
That created a pre-Christmas stir among anxious Canadiens fans fearful GM Marc Bergevin would ship out Pacioretty to placate Therrien. Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette disputed the rumor, pointing out a team “short on size and scoring punch” like the Canadiens wasn't moving one of its few players who provides both.
Brooks can expect a backlash from “Leafs Nation” over his recent column, in which he claimed the Toronto Maple Leafs “would love to find a taker for Nazem Kadri.” Toronto Star pundit Dave Feschuk also considers the young forward to be “trade bait,” expressing the hope Kadri and defenseman Jake Gardiner could land the Leafs a respectable return.
BACKUP GOALIES FLOOD TRADE MARKET
Los Angeles Kings goalie Martin Jones and Washington Capitals netminder Philipp Grubauer made impressive NHL debuts in December. Entering this week Jones was 8-1-0, with a 1.31 GAA, .953 SP and three shutouts, while Grubauer was 5-1-2, with a 2.02 GAA and a .937 SP.
Their performances, however, are raising questions about the future of their clubs' regular backups. Ben Scrivens did well in November filling in for injured starter Jonathan Quick, but was relegated to the bench by Jones' superb play. Michal Neuvirth's leg injury earlier this month opened the door for Grubauer, who saw the bulk of the starts for the Capitals throughout December.
The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek raised the possibility of the Kings carrying three goalies when Quick returns to the lineup in January in order to increase Scrivens' trade value. CSNWasington's Chuck Gormley reported Grubauer gives Capitals GM George McPhee another trade option in Neuvirth, who still aspires to be an NHL starting goalie.
Of the two, the 27-year-old Scrivens has more trade value as a rental player. His stats (7-4-4, 1.76 GAA, .938 SP, three shutouts) are superior to the 25-year-old Neuvirth's (2-3-1, 2.83 GAA, .912 SP). Scrivens is also an unrestricted free agent at season's end whose current salary ($1.225 million, half of which is paid by his former club, the Maple Leafs) is more affordable than Neuvirth's $2.5 million cap hit.
Jones and Grubauer are also exempt from waivers this season so the Kings and Capitals aren't under pressure to trade a goaltender. If they can't find a reasonable return for Scrivens or Neuvirth they can merely return Jones and Grubauer to the minors and recall them if needed later in the season.